Scholars from Sheffield and York gathered ten days ago to showcase their research at a student-organised conference called The Marginal in the Early Modern. Papers by undergraduates and postgraduates considered the idea of marginality within a canonical period and the forms that marginality might take.
The first of three panels, on marginalised bodies, spurred a lively discussion about blindness and silence on the early modern stage and the ways in which fugitive desire operates in poetry when texts queer subjectivities, and texts queer each other. National and cultural identities were the focus of the second panel. We discussed the challenges of recovering hidden, censored or othered identities through the early modern archive. These papers were exemplary works of interdisciplinarity that showed the intersections of English and History in action. A final panel took us to the marginal spaces of staged domestic death scenes and the tantalising margins of poetic paratexts.
Before rounding off with drinks in the stunning John Carr library, we heard a superb plenary address from Terry O’Connor, founder of Sheffield’s Forced Entertainment. Introducing a screening from her provocative Tabletop Hamlet, Terry revealed her work’s negotiations between authority and provisionality in its experimental interpretation of Shakespeare – that decidedly central aspect of the early modern.